OneCare Vermont has been designated a nonprofit.
The organization, which manages the state’s health care reform efforts, received the 501(c)(3) designation from the Internal Revenue Service this week.
In an interview Thursday, OneCare CEO Vicki Loner called it a “major milestone” that shows “we’re truly committed to Vermont’s health care reform efforts.”
The Colchester-based organization, which has about 60 employees and a $16 million operating budget, contracts with the state to incentivize quality rather than quantity of health care. OneCare seeks to shift the state’s health care system from paying hospitals and health care providers for each procedure and instead provide a fixed monthly fee.
So far, a small fraction of Vermonters are paid for under the new system.
The 501(c)(3) designation will require increased financial reporting and greater transparency, Loner said. OneCare has also amended its contract with the state to reflect the technical requirements of nonprofit status. All of the organization’s owner-members must be nonprofits, for instance. Both of its owners, the University of Vermont Medical Center and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, already are.
The designation will also serve as a buffer from critics. Some Vermonters viewed OneCare’s for-profit status as an indicator that the organization was seeking higher margins and driving up health care costs — all shielded from the public eye.
The filing came, at least in part, as a result of that pressure. In January 2020, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith told OneCare Vermont to seek nonprofit status and become more accountable to the public as a condition for the state’s decision to award the company $5.7 million.
“I believe that there needs to be more transparency in OneCare,” Smith told lawmakers at the time.
Battles with state officials over transparency have continued.
Earlier this year, State Auditor Doug Hoffer sued OneCare after the company refused to hand over salary information. Hoffer is in the process of conducting an audit of OneCare and had asked for payroll data from 2019 and 2020 — including 1099s, W2s and benefits information.
Neither Hoffer nor Smith immediately responded to requests for comment.
At the time, Loner called Hoffer’s move “a baseless overreach” that would violate the privacy of employees. She said Thursday that achieving nonprofit status did not require that OneCare provide information about every individual employee and would not change the organization’s response to the suit.
Even if it would change little operationally, Loner touted the 501(c)(3) designation as a vindication of OneCare’s efforts. “This was a very big lift,” she said. “We dedicated a lot of time and resources to doing this, because we wanted to be clear we’re very dedicated to Vermont and its goals.”
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